6 Essential Tips For Managing Remote Teams

July 7, 2021
managing remote teams

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6 Essential Tips For Managing Remote Teams

Despite months of remote work and assurances by employers that businesses would provide their employees with flexible work options moving forward, many employees unsupported in their shift towards remote work. According to Microsoft’s global study on hybrid work, ‘One in five global survey respondents say their employer doesn’t care about their work-life balance’ and ‘over 46 percent say their employer does not help them with remote work expenses’. As we navigate unprecedented times, it’s evident that more needs to be done to engage and adequately provide for remote employees.

This week we bring you six quick essentials on managing remote teams!

Be empathetic

The move to remote work hasn’t been easy on everyone. While some employees have adapted well to making flexible work arrangements work for them, many still struggle with the blurred lines between home and the office.

Instead of immediately assuming interruptions during team meetings or delays in work schedules as a sign of incompetency, managers need to make the conscious effort to empathise with employees. Simple actions such as regular check-ins with employees to inquire about the difficulties faced at home or how their feeling about the remote work situation can help managers to better understand employee perspectives and adjust work schedules to best fit the needs of their employees. 

Introduce structure into the workday

The blur between work and home has got employees feeling the fatigue of digital overload and long working hours. Many employees have highlighted poorer work-life balance and feelings of ‘burnout’. Poor employee mental health ultimately encumbers businesses as well in terms of lowered productivity and retention rates. 

Managing remote teams needs to be understanding and clear with their company goals. That said, managers must play a part in helping employees to structure their schedules by clarifying workplace expectations and specific times of the day where employees are expected to be ‘on-call’. This helps employees to better structure their domestic responsibilities and personal ‘downtime’ around a set work schedule. By considering and respecting the needs employees have to attend to at home, managers create a supportive and cohesive remote work environment. 

Communicate clearly and effectively

In the pre-pandemic office, it was easy to stop by a colleague’s cubicle to drop a message. Going remote however, has meant an increased dependency on online communication. Unfortunately, when faced with a barrage of emails, alerts and brief Zoom meetings, it’s easy for messages to be misunderstood and tones to be misread. 

Businesses can do their part in supporting managers by investing in internal messaging tools (Slack, Chatwork, Microsoft Teams etc.) to better facilitate direct communication between employees and managers. However, more importantly, managers themselves need to focus on being able to communicate clearly and concisely. Having regular check-ins to set expectations and deadlines keeps managers and employees on the same page. Additionally, managers can consider the preferences of the different employees and teams they manage – some employees do best when they are able to vocalise their ideas while some prefer direct, instant written communication (texts, emails etc.). Determine what each person needs, and communicate accordingly.

Focus on output, not processes

Office time is easily associated with productivity, however going remote means that attending remote team meetings or events can be difficult for some employees due to disruptive home office environments. 

Managers need to learn how to alter their pre-pandemic mindset where employee productivity was measured by the amount of time spent on-site. Instead, managers should focus on an employee’s ability to accomplish tasks, produce quality work, and coordinate projects smoothly. When performance is linked to the company’s progress toward its goals, employees feel more engaged with their work. Afterall, if businesses are evaluated by their clients based on the results they produce, shouldn’t employees be too? 

Trust your employees

Managing remote teams sometimes has more trust issues compared to the in-person work setup. However, they should always remember that ‘micromanagement is the destroyer of momentum’. It’s easy for managers to fall into the pitfall of distrust and micromanagement when they can’t physically monitor employees at the workplace. However, by learning to grant employees more autonomy over their work and perpetuating a culture of trust, employees are actually more likely to respond in turn by being more productive and making the extra effort to deliver quality work. 

According to a Gallup survey, ‘when employees don’t trust leadership, their chances of being engaged are only one in 12’. Conversely, a strong company culture of trust had a ‘50% lower employee turnover up to three times higher stock market returns, and increased customer satisfaction’ 

Recognise your employees

Gartner reported on how ‘During periods of disruption, employees’ desire for being recognized for their contribution increases by about 30%’. The biggest challenge of a remote workplace is visibility. When employees feel that their efforts are recognised, they are more likely to take pride in future assignments or go the extra mile to deliver quality work. Recognition also provides employees with the assurance that they are still valued and appreciated by the company in the long run even as the office goes through tumultuous shifts during these uncertain times. 

Continuous improvement has always been a cornerstone of people management – more so in these unprecedented times. How are you managing your team this week? 

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